About a hundred years ago, one of the most cherished records in all of sports was owned by a man, who today, just over a century later, only the most diehard historians can recall.
Within twenty years, when those remaining purists have perished, so too will the name of a man who for three decades owned one of the most lauded records in sport.
Ned Williamson held onto the Major League single season home run record for 35 years. He died at 37 years old and was buried in an unmarked grave.
One has to wonder if he had been convinced he was immortalized. That he had cemented an undisputed legacy that couldn’t be touched. That not even he, the homerun king, could be erased from the annals of time. A man once celebrated by an entire sport, tragically reduced to trivia obscura. As we confront the fallen and forgotten, we’re met with two choices.
We can weep for Ned Williamson. Or we can learn from him.
For in truth, we too will be forgotten. Let this truth not haunt you with insignificance—but liberate you from the clench of fear and expectation. For legacy, as we know it, has been a limply dangled carrot. A toxic snake oil with disastrous side effects on the human soul. A manipulative force that most men will spend their entire lives chasing after in a desperate attempt to medicate away their own mortality.
But recognition and appreciation for this ephemerality is also your greatest gift. For mortality, fully felt, is the only real motivation one will ever need to live in his fullest expression. It’s a permission slip to pursue truth and purpose—not for the sake of having your name etched onto a plaque or to be dipped in bronze—but to be the living embodiment of your highest realized truth in every passing moment.
Living for a legacy is a trapping that most will only ever discover on their deathbed; cold limbed, wispy breath, and not a warm hand in the world to console the regret of a heartbeat auctioned off to the highest bidder. Legacy is not the point. Legacy won’t be measured. Legacy is little more than a cheap substitute for a man who hasn’t realized his limitlessness, and pursued his fullest expression within it.
For once you're gone, people will tell a million different stories about who you were and how you lived. No two eulogies being the same. All will be subjective. None will be accurate. Each retelling filtered through the skewed lens of the particular teller.
Each had their life stories committed to ink hundreds of times over. Each paradoxically portrayed as heroes and villains, pious and petty, famous and infamous. Swinging between poles as the aperture of the recounter contracts and dilates around their skewed and limited vision.
In truth, you will never be viewed how you want to be viewed. You will never be fully appreciated for what you’ve done—and you’ll never receive enough compassion and forgiveness for your missteps along the way.
It then begs to reason, that to be a slave to legacy is a tragic waste of one’s life. A legacy, for all intents and purposes, is not real. It’s a subjective experience filtered and ultimately obscured by the trappings, projections, and secret agendas of the person recounting it. There is not a single person on the planet more qualified to define who you are and how you lived than you. People’s perceptions, beliefs, and opinions of you, be them positive or negative, are both largely coated in falsehood and beyond your control.
Inaccuracies aside, in truth, you will be forgotten. If not by the next generation, then the generation after that. Think of everything you’ve created and will create. With your hands, with your mind, and with your will. Where will those things be in 10 years from now? In 50, in 100, in 1,000, in 10,000, in 100,000?
Even if you did something truly monumental and world-changing, you’ll be but a footnote in whatever they use as history books—and in 1,000 years, those books will have been burnt or digitally erased and replaced by new books where your great grandkids will have become footnotes. Statues crumble. Empires get forgotten. Entire civilizations get swallowed up by the cataclysmic impulses of a force far greater than the human mind can ever comprehend.
Most men will spend a lifetime trying not to be forgotten while forgetting about the very things that truly immortalize him. For man isn’t immortalized by a bronze statue, but in shaving the rust off his own beating heart.
A man will spend decades “building” a legacy in the boardroom while his son goes virtually unfathered, and in turn, spends the next forty years bleeding out from the wound of an absent father who prioritized a balance sheet over a ballgame.
It is said that there’s nothing a child needs more than to observe his or her father in the daily pursuit of his truth. The child doesn’t want the reins to the “family business”—or the trip to Disneyland that those extra hours supposedly provide. He wants to see the king in his power—and to know that such lofty aspirations aren’t of lore or legend, but in the living heartbeat and moment-by-moment actions of he who’s claimed his throne.
Yet in frantically avoiding being forgotten, we resist the fullest expression of our love, creativity, and impact. In tip-toeing across the crosswalk we call life, we slip into the abyss of our own existence. The point isn’t to be remembered. The point isn’t to avoid being forgotten. Legacy is not the point. For a legacy is not left. It is lived.
It is lived into creation moment by moment. And it’s never too early or too late to live it.
To do so requires both intense commitment and absolute reverence for the moment by moment unfolding of your fullest expression—and a devaluing of some stagnant legacy that’s both unreal and beyond your control.
It requires you to be a humble servant to the unfoldment of your own innate gifts. For in truth, being true to what wishes to express through you—to stamp itself onto reality— will be a daring and thankless endeavor. Freedom comes in the process and in the lightness in shedding the need to live for a legacy.
Mickey Mantle drank himself to death.
Kurt Cobain ravaged himself with heroin-filled needles, until a shotgun shell ripped through his skull.
Steve Jobs played host to a pancreatic tumor that overstayed its welcome and overtook the entire house.
In those final moments—we wonder if legacy was something they were concerned about.Or perhaps their final freedom came in no longer having to be Kurt Cobain, Mickey Mantle, Steve Jobs, and the pressures of legacy that came with such.
I can’t speak for them—and I won’t speak for you.I can only invite you to live your legacy. An invitation that can’t help but ignite any man who still has a gift to give, and an awakened heart that simply sees no other way.
One's greatest mourning will not be in the perishing of a loved one, but the moment they come face-to-face and heart-to-heart with the reality of having never really lived.
It will rip one apart. It will swallow them whole. They'll feel a greater sense of remorse than they've felt their entire life.
And as the sorrow sweeps through the inner sanctum of their soul, they'll lift their head up.
Agony will transform into astonishment. They'll become intertwined with the pulsation of life herself.
And your fullest expression will no longer be an aborted pipe-dream—but a birthright, finally realized.
And it’s in that spirit, I say…
I see you, King.
It’s not the sexiest book in the self-help aisle, but one that left an indelible impact when I first read it 8 years ago.
You don’t make friends talking about “death”. And it certainly doesn’t weave itself well into dinner time conversation. Yet paradoxically, living with a fully embodied knowledge of an inevitable corporeal send-off is what liberates one to live (and relate) most authentically, powerfully, and compassionately.
For Your Relationship
Petty hurts and immature insistences tend to evaporate fairly quickly within the embodied knowledge of inescapable mortality.
Hold your lover knowing that one day, it’ll be the last time. Forgive, soften, and let each moment be infused with as much gifted joy, pleasure and presence as you can muster within your current (and ever-expanding capacities).
For Your Business / Career
Every year, TENS of millions of businesses collapse, close down, or get scooped into the controlling hands of a larger company.
In most cases, that was never part of the plan.
We treat business (it’s even in the legal docs) as a “going concern” -- essentially, failing to ascribe a realistic sense of mortality to a company-lifeform that’s just as ephemeral and passing as our own. Many of us strive to “build something that will outlast us” -- when in reality, the natural human lifespan is far greater than its corporate counterpart.
With this knowledge, what would happen if you applied the same “year to live’ concept to your business?
What bigger swings would you take?
What micro-compromises would you no longer tolerate?
What products of programs would you pursue with (strategically) reckless abandon?
What actions would you take to guarantee your own company (and the mission it serves) doesn’t fade into the cold dark night?
At the very least, it’s worth a fireside brainstorm with your closest partners and stakeholders.
Back in 2011, The Foo Fighters performed an iconic Beatles-inspired set on David Letterman.
In what might be the most heart-wrenching and prophetic retrospective in modern music history; Dave Grohl dropped the second verse to These Days, “one of these days, your eyes will close - and pain will disappear” before briefly turning back to glance at his drummer, Taylor Hawkins (who passed last year), wildly in flow, living out his musical dharma.
ISYK: Who We're Honoring
In 1919, Ned Williamson ceded his homerun record to Babe Ruth (maybe you’ve heard of him).
Ruth would pass away in 1948, 13 years before giving up the mantle to fellow Yankee, Roger Maris.
Maris’ (American League) record would stand for over 60 years -- until just this past month when Yankees outfielder, Aaron Judge, surpassed him with 62.
This one goes out to Aaron Judge, the new homerun king.
Ever-humble in his pursuit, quick to share the praise; and slow to anoint himself as anything more than a guy simply doing what he does.
A lived legacy, one swing at a time.
May we all aspire to such.
I see you, King Newsletter
“If Marc Manson, David Deida and Jordan Peterson had a three-way creative lovechild, the ISYK newsletter would be it”.